Being only sixteen years into a new century it would be a mistake, in many areas, not to take a look at our past in hopes to improve in the future. In the world of art, it isn’t unusual for new producers of work to look back at their fore mothers and fathers and find out how it is done.
In this post, we would like to take a look at a few 20th century musicals. Hopefully, if artists in the 21st century follow the trend, we have a lot of great entertainment in store for us.
1. The Robber Bridegroom
Inspired by a novella released in 1942 by Eudora Welty this story has a hero that closely resembles the famed Robin Hood but is far more erratic. We start out in current time and meet the hero of the story, Jamie Lockhart, who tells us a story as the setting changes to Mississippi during the 1700s.
Our focus switches to Clemment Musgrove, coming upon a town on the Natchez Trace as the residents of the village try to rob him of his money. He reaches his lodgings free from robbery but two criminal brothers, Little Harp and Big Harp, conspire to rob and Kill Mr. Musgrove.
Lockhart comes to Musgrove’s rescue and as payment for his bravery Musgrove offers marriage to his daughter Rosamund. Little does Musgrove know that Lockhart is a stealthy thief better equipped to rob him than the two he caught. To disguise his true identity, Lockhart covers his face with berry juice and becomes The Bandit Of The Woods.
Salome is Musgrove’s second wife and she despises her step-daughter Rosamund. So much so the step-mother hires a hitman who follows Rosamund into the woods. It is here that Rosamund meets The Bandit Of The Woods and inadvertently saves her from being murdered. They end up falling in love.
Yet Salome is intent on killing Rosamund while Lockhart, as The Bandit Of The Woods, tells her that he is to be married to another girl. Little does he know that the girl his is promised to is the same girl he met in the woods.
This 1970’s musical takes a lot of interesting twists and turns before everyone’s identities are revealed. Salome persists in her plans to do away with Rosamund while Lockhart and Rosamund are destined to find out who they truly are.
2. 42nd Street
This film, under the genre of Pre-Code Hollywood, which refers to the short time between 1929 and 1934 when pictures with sound started coming out but were not required to pass censorship parameters, was choreographed by the incomparable Busby Berkeley and directed by Lloyd Bacon. With music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, the film script was written by Rian James and James Seymour. It was based on the 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes with the same title.
42nd Street is considered a “backstage musical”, which is a specific type of musical that has a storyline set around the production of a show, predominantly with the story about what is happening back stage.
Finding great success at the box office this movie musical from 1933 received a Best Picture nomination in the Academy Awards that year. Sixty-five years later it was chosen by the National Film Registry for preservation. It was also rated number thirteen by the American Film Institute on their list of best musicals.
Starring Ginger Rogers and Warner Baxter 42nd Street is centered around the Great Depression. The musical partnership of Jones and Barry are staging their latest show, Pretty Lady. The star of the show is Dorothy Brock and she is also the girlfriend of Abner Dillon, who is a wealthy man. She is also seeing Pat Denning, an entertainer who is between jobs.
3. Guys and Dolls
This iconic musical follows two couples in the underworld of New York City. Nathan Detroit loves Miss Adelaide but avoids marrying her while Sky Masterson and Sister Sarah Brown of the local mission have yet to learn just how much they mean to each other.
It all begins when Nathan is feeling pressure to host another of his famous traveling craps games. The problem is that he can’t find a place to hold the illegal event without getting busted by the police, he is short the money to start such a venture. Enter Sky Masterson.
Nathan knows that Sky is a sucker for a bet so he challenges him to take any woman that Nathan picks to Cuba for the night. If he can’t get that girl to travel to Cuba with him then Sky owes Nathan the exact amount he needs to start his craps game. Sky agrees and then quickly learns Nathan’s choice is Sister Sarah Brown who is as goody-goody as they come.
Not one to be outdone, Sky sets out on his challenge go get this noble woman to have dinner with him in Cuba. Of course, she scoffs at the idea and is not in the mood for his shenanigans. She needs to get people into the mission otherwise, the head office plans to shut her chapter down.
Sky learns of her dilemma and makes a deal with her. If she has dinner with him in Cuba, then he will fill her seats with sinners. Desperate to save her mission Sarah agrees and flies to Cuba with Sky. It is there, over many coconut and rum cocktails that the pair falls in love.
Meanwhile, back in New York, not only is Detroit devastated that he now owes Sky the sum of the bet and in need of money to start his traveling craps game, he has his woman, Miss Adelaide, is pressuring him to get married.
All’s well that ends well we suppose. Even though Detroit uses the mission for his craps game and Adelaide is ready to walk, both the woman ends up winning their man in the end, which, after all, is what they need to survive in the 1950’s.
4. My Fair Lady
This musical of the 20th Century is based on the famous George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion. Eliza Doolittle is a commoner, or working class female, in London who sells flowers. She speaks with an accent that is considered low brow and runs into two self-proclaimed gentlemen, Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering.
The two men make a wager that Higgins cannot turn this cockney filthy girl into a woman of high society. From there the games begin. Eliza is put through a series of lessons with Higgins. She continues to fail over and over until one day she proclaims, with the perfect English accent, that “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”
The three friends dance around in jubilation that “by George, she has finally got it.” Higgins makes a plan to try Eliza’s new speech and class on the unsuspecting public. He convinces his mother to bring his protégé to the Ascot Racecourse and she agrees halfheartedly.
Eliza nearly pulls off the charade but can’t keep her cockney upbringing from emerging. Most of the race goers are shocked at her outburst, all except Freddy Eynsford-Hill, a young man who doesn’t realize he has already met the young lady. Freddy is set on winning the heart of young Eliza Doolittle.
The unfortunate thing in this 1960’s musical is that Eliza is already in love with Higgins, who is so misogynistic it is hard to believe that any woman could find a redeeming quality in the Professor. Still, when Freddy makes it known that he would marry Eliza and give her a life she could only dream of she decided she would be much happier living with Henry Higgins and his constantly abuse, albeit musical.
Once again, if the 21st century follows the same trend and pattern of the twentieth century musicals, we have a lot of great entertainment in store for us – watch a few of such musicals here!